Category Archives: Stories

What do you do with your extra breasts?

Chicken “Tacos Mexicanos” with Pico de Gallo

Perhaps one day I will live in that mythical part of the foodie world where I buy and consume only freshly butchered free range organic meat.  Seriously, I dream about that day.  For now, as the wife of a graduate student who has left gainful employment to chase my culinary dreams, I eat whatever meat is on sale and pray that I am not giving us both cancer.  That means that there are always spare chicken breasts chasing around my refrigerator because chicken is always sold in groups of three breasts.

I ask myself, who on earth needs three chicken breasts?  People usually cook for two, or four.  I’ve never seen a recipe written that “serves three.”  Despite our general habits of consumption, where I live one can only buy chicken in quantities of three or six.  Six is occasionally a reasonable number, and happens to be the number of people I can squeeze around my table in the wintertime.  However, most of the time that leaves me dealing with extra breasts.  (And not in the sense of my polka-star father’s favorite song “They’re Always in the Way.”)

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Everyone Needs a Little Easy Goodness Sometimes

Black Bean Chicken Chili

Last night I was running late. Really late. It’s never a good thing to be leaving the grocery store fifteen minutes before your dinner guest is expected. Even if that guest is one of your best friends and the gathering is only a casual catch-up-drop-by-this-is-really-not- a-dinner-party-spontaneous sort of a thing.

As I was driving home from the grocery store, with no plan about what to make and the knowledge that I would have ten minutes to put it together, I was feeling a little panicky.

Bristling with impatience as I sat at a red light, I came up with and rapidly discarded several menu options.  Everything, even my quickest of quick meal classics took at least fifteen minutes of preparation time.  Then, with a sigh of relief, I remembered the easiest recipe ever.  It also happens to be the first recipe I ever created from scratch by myself. Not that I am really proud of it or anything…

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How do you show love?

Peanut Noodles with Tofu

I cook for the people that I care about. When they are sick, tired, stressed, or coping with great tragedy. When they are elated, successful, or celebrating. Occasionally, I even cook for them just because they are hungry.

When my two best friends were preparing for their PhD. exams, I brought them brain food to eat the night before: grilled wild salmon with brown rice pilaf and spinach. When another passed his exams it was a tropical carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I’m always the girl who brings the birthday cake or I host the whole birthday dinner. Events like these are fun to cook for, and I do it with great exuberance.

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It is a good time to be my friend.

When is a scone not just a scone?

I might not have mentioned this here before, but I am currently in the process of opening a crêperie (Parisian-style, not the béchamel-soaked-retro-American style) . A few months ago, while I began to contemplate leaving real estate for work that wouldn’t eat my soul from the inside out, I sat down with a friend who owned and operated my favorite coffee house.

I was hoping to get some advice about starting up a food venture, but I emerged from the conversation with a companion in an expansion venture. It turned out that he was adding square footage, and was struggling to come up with food offerings. Ever since I lived in Paris and bought my first crepe pans I’ve been unable to understand why these wonderful foodstuffs weren’t more broadly available in the U.S.. The crêperie concept also had the additional benefit of being operable out of the very limited kitchen space we would have available to us. Continue reading

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God Bless Jim Lahey and The New York Times

No Knead Bread 1

A few weeks ago, I read the article on No-Knead Bread by Mark Bittman with interest and a vague sense of disbelief. His claim, that it was possible to make artisan quality bread with a dense toothy crumb and a substantial professional crust at home, seemed like an impossibility. I was curious enough to try it out, but I lacked a 6-8 quart pot that was oven safe at the 450 degree temperature that the recipe called for. Even though I didn’t have the proper tools at the time I clipped the recipe and saved it for a day when I would have such a pot in my life.

The claims in the article were sufficiently seductive that I was thinking about the possibility of bread even as I was shopping for Betty.  As soon as the family left town and I recovered from our still-to-be discussed cookie baking marathon, I had my yeast out and ready. Part of the attraction of this recipe is its total simplicity. A few ingredient, a wet dough, a long 18 hour slow rise, a brief shaping then a two hour second rise all add up to very little active time in the kitchen. Continue reading

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My Ocean Spray Cranberry Conspiracy Theory

Am I crazy, or has ocean spray taken to hybridizing their cranberries?

Homemade cranberry sauce and fresh cranberry relish are key components of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, due to an impulsive (but excellent) decision to make Orangette’s Cranberry Chutney, I found myself two bags of cranberries short on Thanksgiving morning. A quick trip to the grocery store closest to my sister’s house yielded two bags of ocean spray cranberries, which looked plump and very fresh. In fact they were about twice as large as the generic cranberries that I had used for all of my other cranberry delights this season. I initially thought that this was a good thing, and I quickly washed and sorted the berries and threw them in the food processor to begin the fresh cranberry relish.

A quick whir, and I began to worry that something must be wrong with the berries. Instead of a rich rosy mix, the chopped berries looked pale and anemic. Not to be deterred, I dumped them into the mixing bowl and chopped the oranges and apples for the relish. I combined all the ingredients, gave them a quick stir, added a sprinkling of sugar, and tasted. Continue reading

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Sugar High Friday #25: Mexican Chocolate Truffles

Thank you Passionate Cook for hosting this event.

Truffles 1

Since Mexico is widely credited with bringing chocolate to the world, I thought I would head south of the border for the inspiration for my truffles. These are not your mama’s truffles in the sense that they are very boldly flavored. One of the characteristics I love best about chocolate is how it comes alive when paired with pungent spices. Especially when chocolate is in a form where the texture is dense and creamy, like in a truffle, it seems to marry well with a little heat.

Truffles 2

For these truffles I used El Ray extra bitter 73.5% cacao, because my husband and I are total dark chocolate fiends. When I make them to give away, I will still use the El Ray chocolate, but I will use the 60% cacao version. The reason I selected that particular brand of chocolate is that while it has a nice opening and a lingering earthy finish, it is relatively flat in the middle. I thought this would create a lot of space for the aggressive flavors I had planned for the dish. In the past, when I have used Callebaut and Valrhona for projects I have found that the taste of the chocolate is so dominant that I have a hard time introducing other flavors.

Truffles 3

When you bite into this truffle, your mouth is filled with a luscious creaminess. The dense chocolate melts over your tongue, amplified by the robust earthiness of coffee. Your nose is tickled by the faint background of cinnamon and almond. While the truffle melts away your mouth experiences a gentle heat, a tickling of your taste buds introduced by the cayenne pepper and the hints of liquor. This fades away into a delightful finish, which is full and round while the chocolate, coffee, and cayenne pepper all compete to be the last flavor you remember.

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